"Holy shit." I can't tell you the number of times I said that, amongst some other more inappropriate and vulgar things that would make your ears burn, during that 6 days that were the Trans BC Enduro. Out of stoke, frustration, exhaustion, or sheer amazement. Just trust me--no matter the context, it was warranted. Last Saturday wrapped up the inaugural Trans BC Enduro, put on by Megan Rose, her incredible army of volunteers, and Stages Cycling. For those of you reading this that don't know exactly what this race was, let me break it down for you:
6 days, 31 stages, approximately 30,000' of climbing, 40,000' of descending, and somewhere around 150 miles of riding in the interior of British Columbia.
It was nothing less than EPIC and perhaps one the best run races I've been to.
Of course, it was also hard as f*ck. Maybe all but 5 of the 31 stages we raced were categorized as double blacks--take that however you wish--but I would definitely say that they all were appropriately marked. Steep, loose, fast, rough, rooty, rocky, technical, muddy, slick as snot... we literally saw all of it, sometimes all at the exact same time. And that was mind boggling.
My fear going into this race was not my skill as a rider, rather it was my fitness--physical and mental. The end of May and whole month of June were absolutely some of the hardest days I've had. I lost one of the nearest, dearest, most loved people in my life, Brian, a ski coach, Greg, and a few other family friends. I rode my bike 5 times in June. I was exhausted, and sad, and completely unmotivated to do anything involving a bicycle.
Well turns out my fitness wasn't an issue really. It was my skill. Which I shouldn't have been so surprised about, but I was absolutely shell-shocked more than a few times over the course of the week.
"You'll love the interior! It's so dry there. You'll feel right at home." Rightttttt. As Mommy Nature would have it, the rain followed me from Flagstaff up to Kelowna, then south to Penticton, then Southeast to Rossland, before making a turn north to Nelson. Literally it rained every single day.
"Who cares about some rain? It'll be perfect." was my thought on the first day of racing in Vernon. And it was the truth. It sprinkled lightly most of the day before clearing up in time for us to dip in Kalamalka Lake post-race. The first day of racing was a very polite introduction to what we would all be seeing throughout the rest of the week: a challenge. I wasted no time introducing my face to the flora and fauna of Vernon, going OTB in a sharp, soft corner towards the bottom of stage 1, and again twice more on stage 2. By stage 3 I had pulled my head out of my ass and stayed on my bike the rest of the day and finished the day feeling much more comfortable on my bike than I did at the beginning.
Day two took us south to Penticton, where it once again rained pretty much all day. This was probably one of my favorite days--maybe because I was the most comfortable here..? The riding in Penticton was wicked fun, with lots of fast and flowy stuff mixed with lots of chunder, techy rock moves, rolls, and drops. Aside from ass skating across one large slab of rock on my left butt cheek, I had a pretty kickass day.
Day three started with a 4 hour ride to Rossland, tucked up in the Monashee Mountains. To get the legs warm we pedaled up the Seven Summits and descended something like 2,000' feet through the high alpine and into the dense, wet woods. Again, angry skies brought us more rain, but it made for some incredible scenery. The rest of the day went swimmingly, until.... The last stage was an old DH track descending from the top of Red Mountain, and was pretty much just straight down. Silly desert girl Alex didn't realize that riding in the rain for three days would wear out her brake pads extra quick and she came off of a drop, couldn't slow down enough to hit the catch berm, went flying mach-chicken through the woods, and off a near-vertical 12' drop-to-flat straight to her dome. Dane Cronin saw it all and I'm pretty sure he thought I was going to be dead. I miraculously came out totally fine, just scared shitless (thank you Smith for always saving my head). I coasted down the rest of the way after that. A hot tub and some whiskey made me feel all better.
We stayed in Rossland for day 4, and surprise, surprise, it was pissing rain. Learning from my near-disaster the day before, I switched both sets of brake pads (which were essentially gone upon examination), and had a rip-roarin', shit-kickin', good time. MOSTLY. Megan gave us a warning about stage 4 of the day--a trail called Flume--saying, "it's uh, pretty technical, but you should be worried if it rains because that will really kick it up a notch." Well she was right. It scared me. In the dry, it wouldn't have been a problem, it would have been like any other stupid, loose, steep trail. But instead it was all of those things and it was laced with soaking wet roots. Flume was really my first experience riding something like that. "How the f*ck do I ride these f*cking things?!" was what I was shouting the whole way down. That trail ate me alive. Chewed me up, spit me out, fed me to the dog, and I was pooped out at the finish line. To say I had no idea what I was doing was an understatement. I was so frustrated by the end I wanted to throw my bike. BUT I didn't, I got over it and had all the fun on the next two stages. "Tomorrow will surely be better" I thought.
The next morning the racers and the rain were off to Nelson. Our first stage was a trail called Power Slave. Yeah, sounds epic right? It was. Because it was so wet and saturated with water it was more like a slip-n-slide than a trail. Megan had to make the call to shorten our transfer so we didn't get to race all of Power Slave, but it was enough for me. Though I didn't struggle as much as I did on Flume the day before, I was still flailing like an idiot--but a smiling idiot. The next stage was drastically different--a trail called Placenta Descenta--that somehow didn't get rained on? It was so much fun. Until the transfer when it just rained and rained and rained. Even though I had my rain jacket on, myself, and everyone else, was sopping wet and covered head to toe in mud, and I was not amused anymore. I was freezing and I just wanted to sit in the gypsy van and not race anymore. Alas, I got my ass out of the van and continued to parade my shit show down stage 3, where I face planted once really hard (thank god I decided to wear my full face). Then it was stage 4, which was better because it was more rocks than roots, and then stage 5, which started off really well, but by the bottom I more closely resembled a 2x4 trying to ride a bike than I did an actual cyclist.
And then it was day 6. The last day. I know I don't need to say it, but it was raining. We were shuttled way up into the Selkirk Mountains, and climbed all the way to Baldface Lodge where we were greeted with warm coffee, dryers, and heaters before having to push another half hour to the top of Cherry Bowl (?). On top of it being wet, rooty, and steep, there was also snow. By this point I had just accepted my fate and slipped and slid all the way down, sometimes on my bike, sometimes on my ass, sometimes on my feet. Then it was on to stage two--aptly named Swamp Donkey. Pretty much this is where it really just went to shit. Right off the bat I caught something in a muddy puddle, crashed, and ripped my shifter off my bars. Of course, this stage had a lot of pedaling and punchy uphills. So I rode what I could I ran what I couldn't. The aid station was at the bottom of stage two and with the help of Nick Simcik and Colin Meagher, we got my shifter taped and zip-tied back on to my bars--though I couldn't really shift. Stage three, Shannon Pass, was the longest stage, and was much of the same: awesome descending followed by a short, punchy uphill that I would run. By the time I finally crossed the last finish line I felt like I had myotonia in my hands and braking fingers, but I was so happy and amazed I finished I couldn't have cared less about my mechanical or my result. I finished TBC in one piece, tired, but so proud.
So I didn't have the results I wanted in BC, but really, what was I expecting? There were absolutely many many moments that I rode very very well, and there were many moments that were reminiscent of my first races as an elite ski racer--where I ran at the back, in the last seed, and I had no tactics other than trying to get down the mountain without DNFing. Slowly over time I learned how to ski the ruts that had been carved into the ice, I learned how ski in challenging and new conditions, and I learned to trust my skills, my skis, and have faith in my ability as an athlete. That was what was missing for me in BC. I didn't trust myself, my bike, or the conditions. But hey, that's how you learn. I realized in BC I haven't been seriously challenged on my bike in a long time, meaning that I haven't really grown as a cyclist in a long time. Though finding weaknesses is frustrating, it also gives you a good outline of goals to work towards. Which is exactly what I will be doing. Going to find steep, wet mud and roots. But before that I think I'll go to Aspen for the EWS and revel in the dry, good dirt of the southwest.
Thank you Megan and crew, and everyone else involved in this race, for working so tirelessly to put on the best race ever. All of us appreciate it so so much and we can't wait to sign up for next year. And a big thank you to all of the lovely racers, especially all my lady shredders, that kept me laughing, smiling, and believing. Lastly, thanks to my lovely parents, who traveled to BC with me and made sure I was always okay and taken care of.
Writing is something I have always been passionate about. I love sharing my stories, my thoughts, my advice, but mostly, I write to record memories and express myself. So here are a few of my fondest memories, best and worst moments, my most profound and boisterous thoughts, and riskiest advice. Enjoy!